NAUGATUCK — The spotlight will shine on six Naugatuck High School graduates when the NHS Alumni Association holds its 42nd Anniversary Banquet at the end of the month.
The banquet is held every two years to recognize Naugatuck High alumni who have remained in the borough and contribute to the community, explained Terry Swanson, president of the alumni association.
This year’s honorees are Sandra Clark (Class of 1949), Robert Genovese (Class of 1962), Dr. Robert Matusz (Class of 1968), Mayor Robert Mezzo (Class of 1989), Dr. Terry Palmer (Class of 1980), and state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (Class of 1994).
Each one is no stranger to community service and has given back in their own ways. Clark, who taught in borough elementary schools for 40 years, is the town historian and the vice president of the Naugatuck Historical Society. Mezzo and Rebimbas have made their mark in the political arena, but their efforts have gone and continue to go beyond politics. Rebimbas is a board member for the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation and the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. Mezzo is well known in the youth sports circle having coached for various youth leagues in the borough.
Palmer, a chiropractor with Palmer & Herman Chiropractic Physicians on Church Street, has done health lectures at the high school, mentored students, and the practice also supports local youth leagues. Palmer’s family also started a scholarship in their father’s name, Bernard, who died four years ago. The scholarship is awarded to two student-athletes at NHS each year.
As a podiatrist with Naugatuck Podiatry Associates on Meadow Street, Matusz is now in a position to help his former educators.
Genovese, a Vietnam War veteran, advocates for veterans and continues to help veterans and their families get financial and medical help. Last year, Genovese was honored with the Franklin E. Johnson Sr. Citizenship Award.
“It means a lot to me,” said Genovese about being honored by the alumni association.
Genovese said the honor is special because it comes from his classmates and peers, all people he grew up with.
For Clark, the recognition from the alumni association came as a pleasant surprise.
“I’m thrilled,” said Clark about the unexpected honor.
Palmer said it’s nice to be recognized by the alumni association.
“I consider myself a proud alum of the school,” he said.
Matusz, who has practiced in the borough for 35 years, described the honor as personally satisfying.
Matusz said over the past 35 years he’s treated almost all of his past teachers and principals. The satisfying part, he said, is that his former educators all trust him as their podiatrist.
“It’s fulfilling,” Matusz said. “It’s a tremendous personal satisfaction for me and my practice.”
For the honorees it’s a sense of community and family that drew them to ultimately make Naugatuck their home after graduating from high school.
“It’s my hometown. I grew up here,” said Genovese, who offered his congratulations to his fellow honorees.
“Naugatuck is the only home I’ve known and will ever know,” said Mezzo, who added he takes a lot of pride in coming from Naugatuck and he loves the “Valley spirit.”
Palmer added, “It’s just a very proud community, and that’s probably the biggest reason I like being a part of Naugatuck.”
Mezzo said to be honored by the alumni association holds special meaning for him.
“It’s a special feeling because the school means and has meant so much for me and now my daughter has come full circle as a freshman,” Mezzo said.
Aside from the opportunity to recognize alumni that have made Naugatuck High proud, the bi-annual banquet is also a fundraiser for the alumni association, which got its start more than 50 years ago.
Swanson said the alumni association was started by Martin P. Lucas in 1954. At the time, she said, it was called Homecoming, and it was meant as just a one-time event to honor legendary Naugatuck coach Peter J. Foley.
The event went over so big, Swanson said, the alumni association was formed the next year.
A top the alumni association’s mission is providing scholarships to graduating seniors of NHS. Swanson said the alumni association awards six scholarships itself and administers about three dozen more — including the Bernard Palmer scholarship — each year. She estimated that $20,000 in scholarships is given out through the alumni association annually. All of the proceeds from the banquet will go towards the alumni association’s scholarship fund.
Swanson said the alumni association hopes people will come out for the banquet to recognize the six honorees and help the association continue to provide scholarships for years to come.
The Naugatuck High School Alumni Association’s 42nd Anniversary Banquet will be held Sept. 29 at the Portuguese Club, 110 Rubber Ave. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 each. For tickets, call Dorothy at (203) 729-5463.